Family Gift Themes

Make memories, make it affordable, and pop out of a rut when your family
swaps gifts this year.

Studio 5 Contributor Shelli Christiansen, from Needle in a Haystack Stitchery,
suggests four gift-giving themes that promote unity, memories and laughter.

With the Christmas Holiday just ahead, many of you have already begun your
Christmas shopping and preparations! When it comes to exchanging gifts,
what are your traditions? Do you give to everyone in the family? Do you
exchange individual or family names? For those who participate in a family
gift exchange, the pressure to find just the right gift can be stressful. Where
to begin? What to buy? I find I often resort to one of three gifts when I can’t
figure out what to buy for my chosen individual: a DVD, a gift card, or a
game. Any of those gifts are great, but perhaps lacking in a bit of originality
on my part!

This holiday season, however, you can add a little punch to your family gift
exchange by creating a new tradition of choosing a theme on which to base
your gift-giving. Having a theme can provide your family with a jumping-off
point when it comes to making gift-giving choices, and can enhance and
promote originality and creativity. In addition, the yearly themes create great
memories as you reminisce about the funny or meaningful items that were
exchanged. We have for you four themes that will hopefully provide you with
some gift-giving inspiration!

1. A Recycled Christmas

The struggling economy has touched all of us to some extent, and of course,
it is ever-popular right now to “go green”. What a perfect theme in which to
be frugal and channel your inner ingenuity! My sister’s family recently used
this theme, and included a little poem as a guideline: “Something bottled,
something baked, something old that you remake.” In addition, they
determined that any of the “re-” words would be acceptable: re-cycle, re-
purpose, re-furbish, re-use, re-make, and even re-gift! My sister sewed
pajama pants for each of her grandchildren using recycled t-shirts; and
created drawstring bags from old t-shirts as well. One of her daughters
received too many bath towels for her wedding, and re-gifted them to a
sibling along with a gift card to Bath and Body Works. Others baked delicious
goodies for each other.
Of course, your local thrift store is a gold mine when it comes to finding
things to repurpose, as well as And don’t forget to look in the “free”
section there! The saying is true: “One man’s trash is another man’s

Some additional inspiration for you:

*Display Shelves: using an “L” bracket and some old books, create unique
display shelves for special trinkets and treasures. Great gift for someone to
place in a den or kids’ room!

*Message Board: Paint an old frame and spray-glue fabric or scrapbook
paper to a section of cardboard that fits the frame. Place it under the glass,
add hooks and wire to the front if desired for hanging notes or photos. Use
a dry erase marker for messaging. Darling gift!

*Serving Trays: It is such fun to serve cupcakes and treats on a darling tray.
I found this tray at D.I. and could see that it had potential, but needed a little
updating. I simply painted it black and Mod Podged fabric to the bottom
surface and sprayed with polyurethane.

You can also paint an old frame, add drawer pulls to the edges for handles,
and place a fabric or patterned paper panel under the glass. Easy and so
cute for serving up a sweet gift!
The internet is chock-full of unique repurposed items to give you inspiration!

2. As Seen on TV

This exchange theme can get a little crazy, but that’s what makes it so fun.
Haven’t we all wondered how well the Shamwow really works, or if a Snuggie
is really as cozy as it’s made out to be? Any guy would love the Tool Bandit,
right? This theme gives you permission to buy something completely
practical, or utterly ridiculous, and everyone will think it’s fantastic! And
fortunately, many of these products are sold at Wal-Mart or Wal-greens, as
well as the internet, so finding them should be fairly easy.

3. My Favorite Things

I really love this theme, and it varies enough that families could use it from
year to year. The idea behind this theme is for the givers to give items that
are their current favorites. Do you have a new favorite book or CD? A new
hobby? A fabulous recipe you’ve stumbled upon? A favorite activity that
you’d love to give away tickets to? What a great way to get to know the
individuals in the family and to share items and activities that are important
to one another!

4. Treasures that Tell a Story

In each of our homes, we have treasures or trinkets that are special to us or
that have a story behind them. What a beautiful gift to find a way to present
these items to a family member.

*Shadow Box Displays: Use trinkets and photos to create one-of-a-kind
displays that hold fond memories of loved ones.

*Costume Jewelry: My niece made this stunning display for her father in law
out of his mother’s old jewelry when she passed away. Create the outline of
the tree or shape on velvet with necklace chains and fill in with the assorted
jewelry using glue like E-6000 and frame. Gorgeous!

*Recipes: Is there a family recipe that has been handed down over the years?
What about making up a plate of the yumminess and writing up the recipe to
be handed down once again? Recipe books also tell great stories of the
meals and recipes that are important to a family. One of my favorite gifts
was the year my hubby gathered all of my old, worn, misshapen recipe cards
and printed them onto uniform cards and organized them into a binder.

*Quilts: When my mother passed away, she had bags and boxes full of
sorted and organized fabric scraps that she was sure she would use again
someday. My siblings and I couldn’t bear to throw them out! So instead, we
began using them to create quilts. We have laughed together as we
reminisce about the fabrics we remember having dresses, prom gowns, or
doll clothes made out of. These quilts have truly become treasures that tell
many stories.

*I cried this past Mother’s Day when I opened one of my gifts from my hubby.
He outdid himself again with a simple, yet sophisticated gift that I love. He
gathered photos of my parents, grandparents, and children, and created a
pictorial pedigree chart in Photoshop for me and had it framed. I love that
my children can regularly see and remember who their ancestors are.
Whatever theme you choose, it is sure to leave your family with warm and
fond feelings as you make some unique memories over the holiday season!

Download patterns for Shelli’s stitching ideas here:

Ho Ho Ho tea towels:

“Grace” shadowbox pattern:

Find and follow Shelli at

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